Phylogeography of East Asia’s Tertiary relict plants: current progress and future prospects

QIU Yingxiong1 LU Qixiang1 ZHANG Yonghua1 CAO Yanan1

(1.Key Laboratory of Conservation Biology for Endangered Wildlife of the Ministry of Education, College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058)

【Abstract】In this review, based on recent studies of population genetics and phylogeographics of East Asia’s Tertiary relict plants, we outline the main phylogeographic patterns and processes. We also summarize common geographic and environmental factors which may contribute to the phylogeographic patterns of East Asia’s Tertiary relict plants and present future challenges and research prospects. There are four recurrent phylogeographic scenarios identified by different case studies, including: (1) the global cooling and aridification during the Middle and Late Miocene induced recent speciation, with climate change during the Late Pliocene and Pleistocene accounting for their intra-specific lineage diversification, genetic diversity and demographic expansion/contraction. The latitudinal contraction/expansion can lead to the formation of “suture zone” for some relict plants; (2) the effects of the formation of the glacial East China Sea land-bridge, as a “corridor” or “filter”, have to account not only for habitat preferences per se but also for other biological features of different relict plant species; (3) the uplift of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) during the Late Pliocene and the intensification of East Asian monsoon system (EAMS) are the most suggestive factors responsible for the major phylogeographic break between the western and eastern lineages across the Sichuan Basin and northwestern arid regions; and (4) some Tertiary relict plants migrated southward to Taiwan region from mainland of China or Japan before the Pleistocene under global climatic cooling and aridification since the Late Miocene, and refugial isolation that occurred between Taiwan region and mainland Asia accelerated vicariant lineage diversification and speciation. Overall, both historical and contemporary geographic and environmental factors affected the distribution, genetic diversity, lineage diversification and speciation of East Asia’s Tertiary relict plants. Finally, we emphasize notable gaps in our knowledge due to the long-term application of simple molecular clock based on very limited genetic markers, and outline future research prospects for disentangling the evolutionary and biogeographic histories of East Asia’s Tertiary relict flora. We present the utilization of genome data and biogeographic models and integrative phylogeographic research of multi-taxon communities as possible future directions.

【Keywords】 East Asia; Tertiary relict plants; phylogeography; glacial refugia; speciation; migration;


【Funds】 National Natural Science Foundation of China (31370241, 31570214) Funds for International Cooperation and Exchange of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31511140095, 31561143015)

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This Article



Vol 25, No. 02, Pages 136-146

February 2017


Article Outline


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Pattern, time and mechanism of lineage diversification
  • 3 Conclusions
  • 4 Future research prospects of phylogeography
  • References